By David Estes4 out of 5
In a changed world where the sky bleeds red, winter is hotter than hell and full of sandstorms, and summer's even hotter with raging fires that roam the desert-like country, the Heaters manage to survive, barely.
Due to toxic air, life expectancies are so low the only way the tribe can survive is by forcing women to procreate when they turn sixteen and every three years thereafter. It is their duty as Bearers.
Fifteen-year-old Siena is a Youngling, soon to be a Bearer, when she starts hearing rumors of another tribe of all women, called the Wild Ones. They are known to kidnap Youngling girls before the Call, the ceremony in which Bearers are given a husband with whom to bear children with.
As the desert sands run out on her life's hourglass, Siena must uncover the truth about the Wild Ones while untangling the web of lies and deceit her father has masterfully spun.
Siena is drawing closer to her sixteenth birthday, when she will follow the Law of her tribe. She will be assigned her Call, and have to bear children, to make sure the tribe continues to exist in the new, harsh world.
The Heaters do their best in the world they know. Their life expectancy is merely thirty years, with a few - the Greynotes, achieving "old age"; some living until nearly forty!
They have laws that promote existence. There is no individualism, only the strength of the tribe as a whole.
At sixteen, girls are given to their Calls - men of eighteen or older, that may have other wives.
Estes has created a believable world, with a perfect balance between disturbing and realistic codes by which they live.
It follows Siena's story and slowly builds, allowing the reader to feel an innocent girl's frustration and fear at the life ahead of her. Finally growing to the seed of rebellion, to the fact that she has a choice.
The story is told from Siena's point of view; her voice is unusual - it reveals the breakdown of education in her society. The slang and choice of words that are used by everybody - from Siena and the other Younglings, to the older men and women, and even leaders of the tribe - shows something beyond simple regional dialect; it supports the disintegration of formal language and even the thought processes we take for granted. Because if time is not on your side, why would you waste education on reading, writing or science; when the main drive is breeding successfully.
The story is moving as Siena comes to realise that the one guy she would not be afraid of, the one that she wants to be her Call, is her best friend Circ. But that's not allowed, as Circ is only sixteen, and Siena is to be given to someone at least two years older.
The story is fantastic on many levels, the world, the Law. The way it shows a society that thinks nothing of women, save that they bear children. It sticks in your throat and makes you want to fight alongside Siena.
What made it lose a star for me was the predictability. By the end of the first chapter, you knew who had what part to play. ((Spoiler: I felt a little disappointed that Circ was "killed off", then revealed that he was truly alive. It felt a little too cute. Or maybe that's just the hard-hearted bitch coming out again.))
If I read it when I was a teenager, it would have been a straight 5 star, and then some.
But anyways, this is a series I will definitely be continuing with.